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Bilingual & Immigrant Education

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Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. this month acquired Aspect, a company that provides English-as-a-second-language programs for foreign college-bound or college-age students.

Baltimore-based Sylvan is best known to K-12 educators for its hundreds of supplemental-learning centers in shopping malls and public schools. But the company has expanded through recent acquisitions into job-related certification tests and distance learning. ("Sylvan's Acquisition of Firm Bolsters Place in Market," March 19, 1997.)

Aspect offers English-immersion programs, some of which are located on college campuses, for students from more than 90 countries. Nine of the San Francisco-based company's 19 English-language schools are in the United States; the rest are in Britain, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. Many of the foreign students attending the U.S. schools are aiming to attend an American college or university, said Sylvan spokeswoman Vickie Glazar.

Sylvan already has an English-language business, but it is geared toward working professionals in 14 countries, mostly in Europe and South America.

While the Aspect deal focuses on providing ESL classes to students from outside the United States, Ms. Glazar said Sylvan is piloting such programs in some of its franchise Sylvan Learning Centers. And students who speak a language other than English are a notable presence in some of the 120 districts the company contracts with to provide supplemental education services and professional development.

"We're just beginning to get into that market on a K-12 level. We may be moving more aggressively into the ESL market, but it's not in our short-term plan," Ms. Glazar said.

Aspect, founded in 1982, had $52 million in revenues last year. Sylvan plans to acquire the privately held company through a $65 million stock swap announced April 13. The deal is expected to close by May 15.

Transcripts of expert-led discussions on topics such as "When and How Should Students Transition to English Reading," "How to Best Help Immigrant Students Through Secondary School," and "How to Respond to English-Only Initiatives" are now available on-line.

The Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics has sponsored a series of discussions over the Internet with language experts on a variety of topics affecting language-minority and immigrant students.

To access the transcripts and other information, go to www.cal.org/chat.

--LYNN SCHNAIBERG

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